EDF, Environmental Groups File Lawsuit to Block Trump Administration’s Plan to Roll Back Methane Waste Standards

October 3, 2018 by TWN Staff
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House Oct. 17, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

This week, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and a broad coalition of health, environmental, Native American and Western citizens’ groups have filed a lawsuit to stop the Trump administration from eliminating protections that reduce waste and associated pollution from oil and gas operations on public and tribal lands.

Congress mandated that Bureau of Land Management (BLM) must require companies drilling on public and tribal lands to use “all reasonable precautions to prevent waste.” BLM created the Waste Prevention Rule to fulfill that mandate. It requires operators to control the venting, flaring, and leaks that waste natural gas – using proven and widely-available technologies that are already in use in the industry and already required by leading states.

The Trump administration is trying to eliminate the rule, which reduces the waste of natural gas. BLM admits that its rollback of the Waste Prevention Rule will hurt average Americans — costing taxpayers up to $80 million in lost royalty revenues over the next ten years.

“The Trump administration’s action will imminently harm Americans by allowing substantial waste of natural gas that will result in lost money for taxpayers and additional air pollution that puts families at risk,” said EDF Lead Attorney Peter Zalzal in a statement. “We plan to vigorously challenge the administration’s decision to eliminate the Waste Prevention Rule, which completely disregards these foundational public interests.”

EDF argues that more than $2 billion of American taxpayer-owned natural gas has been wasted through leaks or intentional venting and flaring since 2013. They say money that could have gone toward schools, health care and other vital public projects across the West.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke justified the rollback in part by saying the Waste Prevention Rule is redundant because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also has methane regulations. However, EDF believes the Trump administration is already attempting to roll back those EPA methane protections.

More than half a million Americans have contacted BLM to oppose a rollback of the Waste Prevention Rule. A recent Colorado College poll found that 7 in 10 Western voters, including a majority of Republicans, support a strong BLM methane rule. And Congress, in a bipartisan vote, rejected an attempt to repeal the Waste Prevention Rule in May of 2017.

EDF filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California late Friday, asking the court to vacate Zinke’s rollback and reinstate the Waste Prevention Rule.

Sierra Club, Los Padres Forestwatch, the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthworks, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, National Wildlife Federation, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, the Montana Environmental Information Center, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Western Organization of Resource Councils, Wilderness Workshop, Wildearth Guardians, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Earthjustice, Clean Air Task Force, and Western Environmental Law Center joined EDF in the lawsuit.

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